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by Last Exile » Mon Apr 09, 2007 3:39 pm

Since Mappy likes posting essays on F1 races and I like doing mini-essays on cricket and AFL, thought it'd be better to have them all in the one place.

And now for an Easter wrapup.


Crows silence the critics, Victoria's great hope humbled

Crows 15.20 110 def Western Bulldogs 12.6 78

Best - McLeod, Edwards, Bassett, Welsh, Bock, Hudson
Major goalscorers - Welsh 4, Bock 4

With doom and gloom predicted for the Crows, they went deep into the old enemy's territory undermanned, heavy underdogs and facing one of their most bitter rivals - one think the Bulldogs will never forgive Adelaide for the humiliaition they inflicted on them in the 1997 and 1998 prelim finals. Based on the efforts versus Essendon, it seemed highly unlikely that the Crows would be able to even provide stiff resistance.

But if there is one thing Neil Craig has been able to bring to this side ever since he took the helm, he can take charge of this side and make them believe in themselves. From the moment the ball bounced, it was clear Adelaide had come to play and this time, it was the Bulldogs who were unsuspecting. Gritty defense clogging up all major avenues into the Bulldogs 50 and picking off nearly every entry led to the more fancied Bulldogs growing ever more frustrated while the Crows played the way we know they can - numbers at the back, run off half-back, play on at all costs, clear up that forward line. But most importantly, win the stoppages and never stop chasing. The normally cocky and fluent Bulldogs soon caved in and let constant errors ruin their game while Adelaide chugged along and gradually put the game in the bag.


Tyson Edwards - Never ceases to amaze. Why he never gets a major tagger or the true plaudits from the critics that he deserves is beyond me. Versus one of the most lethal midfields in the league, Edwards stormed into the wars, plucked that ball and found ope players with ease, over and over. Tyson Edwards rarely makes mistakes and he didn't make a single one in this game. Created endless opportunities and destroyed the Bulldogs by half-time.

Andrew McLeod - Okay, Macca can be a bit of a mug at times. But when Macca gets into overdrive, the opposition is screwed. The back line, away from the niggle of taggers, is where Andy plays his better footy and he belongs there. If he can deliver these kind of performances more often, like we know he can, the Crows will be in for a good year.

Scott Welsh - When Welsh plays well, the Crows play well. Open space, strong leads and out-jousting his opponent in the 1v1 contests. If Welsh gets space and 2 seconds to run, that ball is his and you're given one of the most reliable kicks in the game. Ruled the 40 metre zone along with Bock.

Ben Hudson - As far as Adelaide's ruckmen go this year, he is it. When he blew his knee in 2005 he was gunning for most improved player in the league. He's picked up where he left off. Taps went straight to the target at the stoppages and the Crows were away. If he stays healthy, the Crows will dominate the stoppages and blast away from the contested ball.


Western Bulldogs - So much for equal favourite premiership chances. If constant pressure and fluent play-on footy with numbers behind the ball is all you need to rattle this mob, then they're still a way to winning the flag. This side lives and dies by its midfield. West, Cooney, Johnson, Akermanis - usually lethal, were contained and humbled. They never got going and weren't properly accountable for their opponents. Their defense eventually caved in to constant pressure. Their forwards spilled easy marks from constant pressure. Cooler heads need to prevail for the Bulldogs to seriously challenge in 2007.

Jason Akermanis - After a promising start at his new club, his legs gave way and he will be missing for at least a month. Will the gamble pay off on him? He tried to spark the side midway through the piece but even his usual swagger was erased.

Graham Johncock - A stalwart in defense for many years. An awkward tackle twisting both his ankles may cause him to miss the Showdown. Another player on the sidelines is not what the Crows need with 7 first-choice players already MIA.

The umpires - Look, for the love of....BE CONSISTENT! They're haphazard with holding the ball, their holding calls vary from ridiculously soft to utterly blind. If you're going to call a situation, as long as you're consistent, that's enough. But if you change your mind every 5 minutes, how the hell are we supposed to know what's right and wrong?!

Next 4 games - Port Adelaide @ AS, Sydney @ AS, Fremantle @ S, Collingwood @ AS. After Round 1, an 0-5 was looking on the cards. After Round 2, suddenly all 4 of those games look winnable. If the Crows don't mess around, play it on, open up that blutig forward line, the results will come. With big names ready to come back by the end of April, what looked like a very harsh month is looking far more optimistic. A lot of critics will be eating their words over both sides. Don't write the Crows off just yet.

I'll leave the F1 essay to Mappy, but will make a few quick comments.

Alonso - 10/10. Did everything he needed to do from the very start and was never in doubt.
Hamilton - 9/10. For a rookie he is just amazing. Put Ferrari to shame on Lap 1 and held his nerve versus a fast-finishing Raikkonen.
Raikkonen - 8/10. Blew Lap 1 but was good from then on. If he can remain consistent and Ferrari provides a competent package, he will be there at the business end.
Massa - 4/10. Once again, he blows it. He lets Hamilton past then catches him but makes an absolute meal of the pass and drops 2 places instead and never gets them back. Someone needs to drill some calm and common sense into this guy, especially since Hamilton is outdriving him.
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Andrew Davies: Malaysian Grand Prix Winners & Losers

by Mappy » Mon Apr 09, 2007 6:02 pm


Star of the Race

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, P2

If his debut was impressive then his follow-up race was even more so, Hamilton withstood a lot of pressure from Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen and in the end made Massa look foolish and Raikkonen unfit.

First of all his start was either blinding or Massa was severely at fault to let him creep through to second from fourth on the grid. Having got there he managed to cover his lines into corners when he needed and challenged Massa to an outbraking contest twice into Turn 4.

When the hapless Ferrari driver came skeetering past each time he nipped through on the inside.

In the closing stages, he lost a lot of time to a very determined-looking Raikkonen, but gradually improved his pace on the harder tyre and made no errors under pressure. In the post-race debrief he revealed his water bottle had packed up, but he kept his concentration throughout.

Overtaking Move of the Race

Alex Wurz, Williams-Toyota, Lap 12

Alex Wurz showed Felipe Massa how to overtake a car cleanly at Turn 4 - pitched against his Melbourne nemesis, David Coulthard, he had a clear speed advantage. As both cars approached Turn 4, DC went to cover the inside line.

Wurz, who'd been expecting it, simply drove round the outside forcing Coulthard to amend his line at the exit of the turn.

Nico Rosberg executed a similarly neat move on Robert Kubica at the same corner.


Fernando Alonso, Mclaren, P1

Alonso clearly was very surprised to have come away from Malaysia with ten points in the bag. He edged past Massa into Turn 1 and from there wasn't challenged. From Laps 9 to 14 he began to show that familiar metronomic lapping ability, shaving tenths and hundredths off the Fastest Lap time on each subsequent lap (bar Lap 13).

Though the environment is not an easy one to drive in, the Malaysian GP of 2007 must count for one of his easiest victories, insulated as it was from any fight with the Ferraris by the feisty Hamilton.

Kimi Raikkonen, Renault P3

Kimi Raikkonen looked thoroughly knackered after the Malaysian GP and performed one of the most half-hearted sprays of champagne of all time. He got jumped by Hamilton at the start and had to follow him around for a long time. Then at the close, he drove like the clappers, but didn't get in a position to mount a challenge and had to settle for P3.

Yet it wasn't all bad.

He was closing on Hamilton at the end with faster lap times than team-mate Felipe Massa was putting in to try and peg back Nick Heidfeld. He didn't make an arsch of himself trying to pass Hamilton, and he put more distance between himself and his team-mate in the World Championship.

At the end of the day his engine looked strong (no apparent cooling problems here) and he goes away just two points behind Alonso.

Nick Heidfeld, BMW, P4

With far more fuel than those in front of him on the grid Heidfeld's Saturday qualifying performance was better than we realised at the time. He had a steady race, resisting any pressure from Felipe Massa, who was never more than about three seconds behind him, except during the pit-stops.

He also managed to put the hammer down and beat Felipe when it counted during the second round of pit-stops. Though it was very tight.

Giancarlo Fisichella, Heiki Kovalainen Renault, P6 and P8

A great start from Fisichella who jumped to 8th and then lucked into 6th after Kubica and Rosberg disappeared with reliability problems. He'll be happy (or "appy") to have beaten his team-mate.

Kovalainen kept his car in one piece, though he did run wide in various corners on his way to his first World Championship point.

Renault's horizon doesn't look as bleak as it did on Saturday, but the tightening of the rules on flexible floors has clearly affected them more than any other team.

Jarno Trulli, Toyota, P7

A largely unseen Trulli kept his car in one piece - and most importantly, beat the Williams-Tyota.


Felipe Massa, Ferrari, P5

Psychologically, this result could be quite crushing for Massa. After the first GP where he lost out through no fault of his own in Qualifying he must have been expecting to get a podium at the very least - if not P2 or the win. This was his turn for the Ferrari win.

The fact that it didn't happen is down to the pace of the car and some fairly basic motor-racing faults. It's hard to think of a potential World Champion failing to brake in time for the same corner and duffing up two overtaking moves.

Michael Schumacher, back in the comfort of Vufflens Le Chateau must have been burying his face in a pillow.

After that Massa had trouble even getting on terms with the BMW of Nick Heidfeld. He really does need a result in Bahrain.

Nico Rosberg, Williams-Toyota, DNF

Rosberg did all the hard work only for his engine - sorry, make that hydraulics - to fail. Nico said it was the hydraulics, but it's rare you get the team asking their driver to "switch to Mode 4" because the hydraulics are overheating.

It was yet another impress turn of pace from the German, far above the kind of performance Wurz is getting from the car.

Robert Kubica, BMW, P18

Kubica is becoming the Rubens Barrichello of the BMW team (the driver whose car always falls to bits, while the team leader's never gets a puncture). His failing traction control dropped him down the field -presumably because the extra wheel spin absolutely shagged his tyres.

In a way he was just interpreting the 2008 rule - the ban of TC - a little bit early.

He's going to have to practice...

Mark Webber, Red Bull, P10

Webbo's races would improve so much if he could end Lap 1 in the position he qualified. Another race of going gently backwards for the Aussie, only mitigated by problems for cars in front of him.

David Coulthard, Red Bull, DNF

This is almost certainly going to be David Coulthard's last season in F1. At the Chinese GP last year he didn't want to drive his Red Bull in the wet and wanted to bring in a healthy car and retire.

In Malaysia he got on the radio and said very much the same thing, only this time his brake pedal was fouling the steering column. None of the "I'll try and drive round this" DC wanted in.

Though it's a legitimate reason for stopping, not being able to brake your car with confidence, it's symptomatic of a driver who is highly aware of his own mortality.

Honda, 13 and 14th

As the current BBC2 programme title says: It's Not Easy Being Green.

Ralf Schumacher, Toyota, P15

Ralf had a basket of miseries thrown at him - he had to avoid Trulli at the start and then both Toyotas got jumped by a fast-starting Fisichella. He got stuck in traffic, had a slow puncture etc etc. Unlike his brother Ralf doesn't see adversity as a challenge, he sees it as a reason to sulk.

Those Mark "Git orf me barra" Moments

Following a wonderful debut in Australia, where his sentences stretched out into the far distance like a view across the desert from Ayers Rock, Mark Blundell had been practicing. Just as the teams had been testing in Sepang so Mark had been practicing with some short, sharp sentences.

A real loss to the ITV viewer, but there were still some gems in there.

Mark's view about Renault's dominance:

"It's not no longer happening."

Mark's view on the conditions.

"It's just immensely humidity."

Mark's view on Alonso's prospects.

"He's up in the mix and I think he could pull something out of the bag."

Mark's view on DC mounting Alex Wurz in Australia.

"It could have been a lot worse, Steve. Gratefully nothing happened."

Mark, would you send something by FedEx or Felipe Massa...?

"We said Massa was the fastest package."

-Andrew Davies
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by Last Exile » Mon Apr 09, 2007 9:46 pm

Well said.

Now for the cricket

England 247 (49.5 overs)

Pietersen 104
Bell 76
Tait 3/41
McGrath 3/62
Bracken 3/30-odd

Australia 3/248 (47.3 overs)
Ponting 86
Clarke 60-odd

Antigua is a pitch that offers virtually stuff-all for bowlers and is high scoring, but particularly for who bats first. England winning the toss was cruical. But unfortunately, they fell into the same problem they have been all tournament. The openers fail, Pietersen and Bell give the innings a mighty jolt, everyone after them fails. However, they did make a fight of it. If only someone else would stand up for them and make a contribution, they would have beaten Sri Lanka or Australia and then they wouldn't be languishing on 1-3. As for Australia, once restriction England to the mid 200s, victory was a given. You can't defend anything less than 280 on Antigua batting first.

England innings

Vaughn and Strauss open and as usual this summer, stuff it up. However what made it so different this time around was the dominance of Shaun Tait. While Nathan Bracken strangled the scoring rate, Tait fired it in hard and fast, cramping both to the point they both chopped it onto their own stumps. Once Pietersen hit the crease when Tait's first spell was done, England regrouped and the duo murdered McGrath and Clarke. Pietersen treated McGrath with utter contempt and forced him out of the attack with monster shots while Bell played subtle shots that slipped under the guard of the fielders.

Then comes a change in Ponting's normal strategy - the absence of Watson and Lee force him to push a power play back till the 27th over and to bring Tait back early. But once again he came up trumps. McGrath took his 2nd spell well and got the cruical wicket of Bell with consistent length. Tait's venom snatches Collingwood, leaving Fintoff to come in far too early and England, who were headed for over 300, lost all momentum and floundered. Pietersen could rarely get the strike and his teammates never got momentum. His century was brave and impressive, but it was always going to be in vain.

Australian innings

It was simply a question of when. Hayden and Gilchrist blasted it early then both fell in quick succession. After that it was a slowly but surely method by Ponting and Clarke to preserve their wickets to open up late in the piece. Ponting was always in control, it took sheer brilliance from Collingwood to run him out on 86. After that Symonds looked like he didn't want to be late for a round of golf and blasted that ball all over the park. Victory came quickly.

The winners

Shaun Tait - This match was his and his Man of the Match award was truly deserved. He was the ONLY bowler that ever looked dangerous and that he would take wickets. Everyone else drew from the tension he created in the end. If Tait hadn't scintillated in those 2 spells, the game would have been very different. Tait is suddenly Ponting's go-to-guy. How things have changed in 3 months. The pace and swing now has slower balls and a more consistent line built in. He will only get better.

Kevin Pietersen - He took the match by the throat and tried his heart out. You can't ask much more from him. His fielding has lifted, his batting is sensational to watch, he is fearless versus the big names.

Ricky Ponting - Once again, he sees troubled times through then makes the match is own. There's really not much else to say on top of what has been said countless times before. He is simply the best player of the modern era, no contest.

Ian Bell - He's slowly looking more potent and more reliable. He just needs someone to stick around with him because he has the patience, the subtlety and strokeplay. That innings was probably the best he's ever played in this form.

The Losers

The rest of the English side - For all they did in January, they're collapsing every game when it really matters. For crying out loud, they barely beat Ireland! Their innings was saved by 2 batters. Their bowling was pitiful - they have no one that looks like a dangerous wicket-taker, period. Perhaps January was a fluke after all.

A Typical Moment

As the game was finishing, Andrew Symonds winds one up for six but Pietersen gets his hand to it. One problem though - he's on one foot and right on the boundary rope. Skipping like mad until realising he can't legally catch it and conceding 6 is imminent, he throws it back over the rope to limit it to 2. A sour moment of irony - brilliant individual effort mattered for naught.

The Aftermath

Australia are 4-0 and set for the semi-finals. England are 1-3 and in serious danger of missing out. However, a win versus South Africa might be the spanner in the works to make things really interesting after Bangladesh knocked off the Proteas.
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